mef germans were to elect their chancellor directly, a new poll implies, they would vote for Robert Habeck, the economy minister in Olaf Scholz’s coalition government. Habeck and Annalena Baerbock, the foreign minister, both from the Greens, regularly lead such polls. The next chancellor could well be a green.
Ten years ago, this would have been a horror scenario for German companies. They saw the Greens as a ban party (prohibition party) whose Birkenstock-wearing leaders lived in an unrealistic green utopia without internal combustion engines or short-haul flights. CEOs did not speak to the party, and the party ignored his concerns.
Since then, the Greens have joined more state coalition governments, mostly in Germany’s industrial heartland. Baden-Württemberg, an industrial powerhouse in the south, has been led by a Green state prime minister, Winfried Kretschmann, for the past 11 years. The popular Mr. Kretschmann is part of the moderates”RealóWing of the party that seeks to combine pro-business centrism and green concerns. North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous state, is run by a coalition of Greens and the conservative Christian Democratic Union.
The government has made the Greens less utopian. They have redefined themselves as allies rather than adversaries of German business. Its main goal, a carbon-neutral Germany in 20 years, is shared by most companies. In her “compact with industry” last year, Ms Baerbock, then running for chancellor, proposed handouts to companies that cut their net-zero emissions and kept production at home.
“Now there is a lot of economic competition in the Green Party,” says Marcel Fratzscher, director of the German Institute for Economic Research, a think tank. Danyal Bayaz, Minister of Green Finance for Baden-Württemberg, used to work for the Boston Consulting Group. In 2018, Kerstin Andreae, an economist who was then a Green member of the Bundestag, created the party’s “economic council”. Members include CEOs like Martin Brudermüller from essential, a chemical giant, and Gerd Chrzanowski of the Schwarz group, owner of Lidl, a discount grocery store. Last year, Joe Kaeser, the former head of Siemens, an engineering giant, spoke at the Greens party conference.
Unlike the old-school Greens, Habeck knows how to listen, says Matthias Berninger, a former Green. deputy who is now a lobbyist for Bayer, a drug manufacturer. Unlike Mr. Scholz, he is a good conversationalist. He if he runs Germany’s economy through the winter, when Russia could cut off the flow of natural gas in response to EU sanctions for his war in Ukraine, companies may also see him as a good future chancellor.
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